Seven years ago when I went to the first one of these things I never would have expected it’d go through as many changes and still remain a fascinating and terrific event. Through all the names, management disputes, money owed, internal drama, ousters, reconciliations and amplified noise, DEMF remains a hell of a good time.
I arrived Saturday morning, very early, to put some time in with my parents before I headed downtown. One look at the schedule will show you there’s little wiggle room. After loading up on mom’s kaiserschmarrn and stopping off at a grocery store for supplies, I checked into our hotel–the new Holiday Inn Express on Michigan and Washington, four or five blocks away from Cobo Hall and within stumbling distance of Lafayette Coney Island. I was much more impressed with the HIE than the Pontchartrain, where we’d stayed the year before. The Partytrain was falling apart and the influx of crazies didn’t help. But the HIE had speedy elevators, valet parking that didn’t mind our late hours, and high speed internet (which was fun–iTunes users throughout the hotel who had their libraries shared could bump each others jams). But enough about the hotel–on to the festival itself.
This year it seemed like there was much more to see. At times on Sunday and Monday I would have liked to have been three places at once. Ticketing, crowd control, all that was smooth as everóat times it was busy, but never scary busy like the first few years.
The crest of neu-rave is still a ways away from the D. It might as well still be 1995. There were loads of candy ravers (does anyone know where they come from?) and freaks of all manner and description roaming around Hart Plaza.
Sound systems were greatóexcept around midway through the first day when an amp in the Beatport tent fizzled up during Guido Schneider’s set and volume remained a bit low for the rest of the afternoonóthus permitting comfortable conversation about how hard Claude VonStroke was shredding. The only audio snafus I heard were bad mixes–Shake, Abe Duque (at the beginning of his set), Jeff Mills (really off a few times) and Luciano (who had to give up a mix entirely at one point); it seemed like many had a tough time at one point or another. Maybe those Xone mixers are too fancy for their own good. Even Michael Mayer, who played a fantastic set Sunday night had problems with jumpy needles.
There was so much good music–Hardfloor put the acid tax on the main stage soundsystem and were absolutely on point (and, on a surprising note, had the crowd in their pocket), VonStroke (Gabe Real from Detroit crew Souldega was ecstatic about VS–admittedly, Mr. Dirtybird carried a strong groove throughout), Kerri Chandler, Rhythm & Sound, who played over six hours in the rain with various emcees, Abe Duque & Blake Baxter, Baby Ford, Damian Lazarus, Loco Dice, Luciano (An aside here: ëorganicí is a term overused in a lot of electronic music contexts, but it is a good descriptor for Lucianoís style. All the records he played seemed to have much warmer, more natural dimensions than other minimalists, and were almost fungal in the way they filled what by the time he went on, a tropical, steamy Beatport tent. It didnít hurt that he was laying down mega tunes that had people hugging the bassbins, including one with a distant, eerie organ line creeping through it, and Booka Shade, which was a bit of a surprise. BS played after A Guy Called Gerald, who, while fun, was a bit straight-laced. Once the came on, though, the crowd at the bowl probably quadrupled–a great, rousing performance clearly honed at large Euro festivals. They worked the crowd like a mother, and at one point had the crowd pogoing.
I heard Gui Borrato was wonderful, but after listening to the first fifteen minutes of his live performance and deciding it sounded too much like the set of his from March I’d been caning I went off to see Hardfloor. Luckily I came back to see Mayer, who absolutely crushed the place. He played until almost 11pm, well over his allotment, and dropped song after song after song, touching on all the Kompakt classics.
One of the wonders of the weekend was there was so much stuff going on there was no reason to hang around if you weren’t feeling somethingóa short walk to another stage and youíd find something more aligned with your style.
On the afterparty tip, we mostly stuck to housey stuff, because the
diet during the day was steady techno. I saw Gabe and Mike from Souldega play a short set Saturday night, and on Sunday Dirtybird/OM guy Justin Martin spun his ass off at the Corktown Tavern for an intimate group. Monday we went to the old Serengetti Ballroom to see Omar S and a few of the 3Chairs guysóIíd missed them at the festival but it was perfect to see them in a classic Detroit space with a great attitude: faded glamour, BYOB, no bull.
My only regret is agreeing to meet my parents for lunch early
Monday. (Sorry Mom!) Not only did I skip out on the now-infamous Old Miami 7am bash so my folks wouldn’t think I was a zombie (Matt Dear, Ryan Elliot, Troy Pierce, Magda et al in the crazy backyard of a Vietnam vets’ hangout with an AK over the bar and some over-enthused lady running around and exposing herself on the lawn), I was also forced to explain bitrates, sampling, live performances vs. DJ sets to the beloved pair whilst sitting in a near-empty restaurant next to Fred Gianelli and three unknown Germans.
At any rate, if you’re on the fence about this next year, just come.
It’s not terribly expensive, very well run and a dynamite time–which which, if Paxahau plays its cards right (and they’re in it for more than just lining their pockets with money) ócould get much better. One of these days weíll do the troika; DEMF, Mutek, Sonar, but DEMF will always be closest to my heart; seeing so many friends in one of the country’s friendliest towns is so very worthwhile.
Special bonus for you diligent readers: Hereís the Piknik at Mutek last weekend, day 2, with Jesse Somfay, Digitaline, Heartthrob the Wighnomy Brothers and Suketh.
Counting the beats until the DEMF sets appear…